How House Negro politics is blocking Orlando police reforms

Remember Stephen, the loyal slave plantation House Negro in the 2012 movie “Django Unchained”?

That role of Stephen the House Negro is being played out in real life by political operative Russell Drake, who is working behind the scenes to block one of Orlando's most outspoken black activists from Orlando City Hall discussions to end police brutality and systemic racism. Drake is the first vice president of the Democratic Black Caucus of Florida.

Monday night in a lengthy Facebook thread, Drake wrote that Lawanna Gelzer should be barred a meeting that Mayor Dyer is planning with some of the activists who organized recent massive street protests held after the police murder of George Floyd.

One of the activists T.J. Legacy Cole posted the message: “I informed @citybeautiful @orlandomayor office I will NOT exclude prominent activist Lawanna Gelzer from our police reform meeting. Black women’s voices are so critical to our movement. She deserves to be heard.”

True to the character of Stephen the House Negro, Drake responded: “Suggestion. Bring a different Black woman.”

“I will. But Lawanna will be one of them,” responded T.J., an activist, journalist and host of “The Soapboxx” podcast.

For more than 20 years Gelzer has been a tireless advocate for west Orlando’s black communities – particularly on income inequality, environmental racism, housing, and police brutality. Often, she’s the only member of the public in attendance at City Commission meetings.

Gelzer, a Rollins College graduate who majored in economics is fiercely critical of Mayor Buddy Dyer.

Other men and women on the Facebook thread wanted to know why Drake insisted Gelzer be excluded from the meeting.

“It appears that the city says they’ll meet with protest leaders, just not Ms. Gelzer. If the insistence is to have a Black woman present, bring another Black woman. Does one person stop the momentum?”

“We are not going to allow our city officials to dictate who are good and respectable black folks to listen to. Black women will be there but she (Gelzer) deserves to be there because of her skill set and extensive research. Buddy needs to get out his feelings. He is a public servant. NOT a king,” T.J. responded on Facebook.

Russell Drake does not work for the Orlando Mayor’s Office.


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